Botetourt County supervisors gave their approval Tuesday to a proposed solar power facility on a farm outside of Buchanan.
TotalEnergies Renewables USA, part of an international energy company based in France, is seeking to install 11,160 solar panels on about 17 acres of pasture. The land is part of a 405-acre farm located off Pattonsburg Lane. Dubbed Solar Star Buchanan 2, the project would have the capacity to produce 4.5MW of alternating current.
For a comparison, A Dominion Energy statement about the company's solar energy plans said that 1MW of generation capability was enough to power about 250 homes at peak output.
TotalEngeries needed a special exception permit to construct the solar facility - the first such request to be considered by the Botetourt County board.
Supervisors unanimously approved the special exception permit after praising several aspects of the proposal, including that it would help a multi-generation farm continue its agriculture, and that the solar panels would not be visible from surrounding properties, according to a study TotalEnergies commissioned as part of its permit application.
At a public hearing held before the supervisors' vote, Alex Fox of TotalEnergies said that his company is building Solar Star Buchanan 2 to take part in Dominion Energy's Virginia Community Solar Pilot Program. The program aims to help lower-income electricity customers lower their monthly bills. TotalEnergies will look for local Dominion customers to take part in the program, Fox said.
The solar facility's lifespan is estimated at 25 to 35 years, according to Tuesday's presentation. When the facility is no longer in use, TotalEnergies agrees to restore the land to its present condition, according to the presentation.
The company's application said that it expects six to nine months of construction and for the solar facility to start producing power next year.
The two residents who spoke at the public hearing supported TotalEnergies' proposal.
One of the speakers was Lindsay Finster, who said that she and her brother were the sixth generation of their family to farm the property that includes the solar generation site. She said the money that the family will receive from leasing space to TotalEnergies will be invested in continued farming.
"The returns from this project are going to be far greater than the returns of running cattle on this land ... and I want to buy more cattle," Finster said.
Mike Gangloff (540) email@example.com